Spring 2002 • Vol. XXIV No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 2002 |

On Sitting down to Read Shakespeare Once Again

One can imagine a typology of the pleasures of reading—or of the readers of pleasure …—Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text 63 Of course, many of us do not sit down to read Shakespeare. When recently I talked with students in two discussion sections that meet after Shakespeare lectures, I found that at least half of them read Shakespeare lying down in bed or stretched out on a couch. Some say that their bedroom or the bed in their dormitory room is the only place that offers the sort of quiet, more than that, the repose, that reading Shakespeare seems to require. Other discussants could not imagine reading Shakespeare in bed—a desk and a chair, even pacing about, any position that wards off somnolence is imperative. There is much to say about the phenomenology and the physiology (for professional readers, for academics, maybe it is the ergonomy) of reading Shakespeare—our preparations, our posture, our tools (pens, pencils, bookmarks, bookrests), reading silently

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Theodore B. Leinwand is a professor of English at the University of Maryland. He has written books about early modern theater and finance and Jacobean city comedy. This essay reappears in his forthcoming book The Great William: Writers Reading Shakespeare (Chicago, 2016).

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